This week, the Transportation Security Administration released its “year in review” for 2018. More than 800 million people passed through a U.S. airport checkpoint, a 5.5 percent increase over the previous year. But the TSA doesn’t necessarily expect you to retain that fact. What the TSA would very much like you to remember is that you should never try to take a firearm onto a plane.
Doing so is against the law—with scofflaws facing possible federal criminal charges and a civil fine of as much as $13,000. Yet it happens, often. According to the TSA, an average of nearly a dozen guns were confiscated at its security checkpoints every day, totaling 4,239 guns for the year. More than 86 percent of these guns are loaded, with nearly one-third having a round in the chamber at the time the weapon was discovered. Where did the TSA pick up more guns than anywhere else?
If you said anything other than “Texas,” you’re on the wrong website. Of course the answer is Texas, with 518 of those firearms taken at just four Texas airports. DFW, George Bush Intercontinental, Dallas Love Field, and Austin-Bergstrom all ranked among the top ten airports at which the most firearms were discovered.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is the fourth-busiest in the United States, but it’s the second-busiest among travelers packing heat in their carry-ons, with 219 discovered there in 2018. That’s 80 more than the next contender. If you add Love Field (which places at No. 9) to the mix, Dallas comes off looking positively gun-nutty. The combined haul at North Texas’s two major airports outdoes even Atlanta, which has the nation’s busiest airport in another gun-friendly state and sees nearly 10 million more passengers annually than Love plus DFW’s total.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport would have taken the No. 3 spot in 2017, but last year was a more thoughtful, responsible year among Houston travelers, apparently. It’s the only airport on the list that saw the number of firearms to pass through its security checkpoints decrease, down to just 117, a drop of 25 for the year. That’s not even one every three days, and good for just No. 6 on the list. On the other hand, almost all of those were loaded (only two weren’t), which is by far the highest percentage of loaded weapons found by TSA at any airports.
Austin, meanwhile, earned a distinction of its own: It had 93 stowed firearms found by security agents last year, despite the fact that it’s the smallest airport on the list (the 34th busiest airport in the country). Twenty times as many people passed through the checkpoints at Los Angeles’s LAX in 2018 as visited Austin-Bergstrom, and yet they didn’t find 93 firearms in L.A. (It didn’t even make the list!) Despite the capital city’s hippy-dippy reputation, it boasts the highest firearm-to-passengers ratio of any airport on the list by far.
While the TSA would like to remind people not to bring guns in their carry-on bags (unloaded firearms are allowed in securely locked checked luggage), the agency does seem to have a sense of humor about all of this. In addition to the admonishments about how to safely stow weapons, TSA shared photos of some of the more, er, unusual items its agents had discovered: hand grenades, mortars, and more.
The TSA Instagram shared some of these highlights/lowlights. Here are a couple all-stars from Houston last year: